Reach Out & Touch Base - World Suicide Prevention Day 2019
10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day; a day when people from around the globe come together to bring light to the ever-increasing mental health epidemic that is death by suicide. Beyond this, it is also a day that provides people with the opportunity to remember those they have lost to suicide, or to provide hopeful stories of their own recovery for people that may well need to be shown the light at the end of the tunnel.
Regardless of its purpose to each individual, it is a day that is vital to the ongoing efforts being made to bring the conversation surrounding mental illness and its effects to the forefront of the public consciousness.
Why is this such an important conversation to have?
One of the first reasons that jumps to mind is the recent spate of high-profile male suicides over the years such as Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Kim Jong-hyun, Keith Flint, Avicii, Anthony Bourdain and unfortunately many others. It is calculated that in the UK alone, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Using statistics provided by The Samaritans website, we are able to see for ourselves exactly how bad this epidemic is becoming. In 2018 alone, we saw the following –
Between the UK & Republic of Ireland, 6859 suicides were recorded. That is just shy of 19 deaths a day.
Suicides rose by almost 12% within the UK, with an increase of 23.7% (730) in men under 25.
Suicides amongst young people (15-24) increased by a terrifying 52.7% in Scotland, which itself holds the highest rate of suicide in the UK.
Men aged 45-49 years of age suffer the highest suicide rate in the UK, with the ROI seeing the highest rate amongst men aged between 55-65.
The suicide rate for young females is at its highest rate on record.
These statistics are terrifying, and they go some way to explaining the gravity of the issue we are facing as a society. When you look at these numbers and factor in the people affected by association, it becomes staggering since these figures relate to those who died by suicide, not those affected by it.
Assuming each family has an average of 2 children (the actual average being 1.89 as reported by the BBC in 2018), and 2 parents, we have to consider that the number of people that will be affected by suicide through association grows exponentially through household families, extended families and friends. These numbers may be conjecture based on initial statistics, but it should hopefully illustrate just how many people within the UK alone have the potential to be affected by losing a loved one to suicide.
So, with all this said, what can we do? First and foremost, we can be honest about our own mental health. There is no shame in being ill. Whilst we continue to battle a stigma surrounding mental illness, we need to understand that a broken leg is far easier to treat than a broken brain. We also need to remember how important the brain actually is. Many people assume that if it’s invisible, it isn’t there, but if your brain isn’t working properly, how can you expect it to operate your body at full capacity?
Secondly, we need to understand the stigma, and continue to fight it. How many times have you woken up feeling as though you can’t make it to work or a meet-up and you blame it on a physical ailment instead of the actual mental ailment you’re suffering from? We do this for fear of being judged, but if we took the time to understand that the brain is the most important thing in the human body, we might realise how foolish it is to pretend that it’s always 100% A-okay.
Finally, we need to look after each other. Educate ourselves on the signs and check in with people every now and then. We’ve all had instances wherein we’ve spoken to somebody and noticed something is off, but we’ve not pressed the issue for fear of being rude. Ask twice if somebody is okay. Reach out to people. Touch base. Tell somebody that they are valued, and that they are loved. If talking doesn’t help, then listen. Don’t just brush off a low mood as an off-day.
We are arguably as divided a society as we have ever been, which makes our mission and responsibility to each other that much more important. There is a lot to be afraid of. There is a lot to be angry at. Despite this, there is always, and will always be more to love. Finding just one thing to love and building on that can be so important.
Speaking from experience, were it not for the grace of the people I have in my life, I wouldn’t be here. When the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away that it may as well be just another star in the sky, it can be all too easy to assume you’ll never make it there, but when you do make it and you finally turn around, you’ll get to see the world and how beautiful it can really be.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, please consider using the below resources to seek help. There is no shame in it, and it may well be the most important and brave step you ever take.
(UK) Samaritans – for everyone.
Number - 116 123 – 24 hours a day.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
(US) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Number – 1-800-273-8255
Website - https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Number - 0808 1 606 606
Website - drugsline.org
(UK) Talk to Frank - Offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day
Number - 0300 123 6600
Website - talktofrank.com
(UK) Narcotics Anonymous
Number - 0300 999 1212
Website - ukna.org
(UK) Alcoholics Anonymous
Helpline for London - 020 7833 0022 (10am to 10pm daily)
National helpline - 0800 9177 650
Website - alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
(US) Various Drug Abuse Hotlines
Website - www.drugabuse.com/library/drug-abuse-hotline
Number - 1-877-974-9376
(UK) Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men.
Number - 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day.
Website - www.thecalmzone.net
(UK) Papyrus – for people under 35.
Number - 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm.
Text - 07786 209697
Email - email@example.com
Website - www.papyrus-uk.org
(UK) The Silver Line – for older people.
Number - 0800 4 70 80 90
Website - www.thesilverline.org.uk